EURO 2012 | Ones to Watch – Group C

Despite Group B containing the likes of Germany, Portugal and Holland, Group C will also show off a number of young stars in Poland and Ukraine this summer. Current holders as well as World Cup winners Spain are the favourites, but they’ll face stiff competition from Italy, Ireland and Croatia in what promises to be a close group.

Jordi Alba (Valencia & Spain)

Barcelona through and through, apart from the fact he plays for Valencia. The talented left-back grew up in Catalonia and played for the Barca youth team, but Alba has come to be noticed with his defensive and attacking performances for Valencia in the last couple of years. He’s still only 23 and seems almost certain for a move to Barcelona sooner rather than later.

His international career has only just got going though, Alba has made 3 appearances for the national team starting last year, but with left-back possibly the only position Spain lack a definite starter in, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Alba in that position when Spain kick off against Italy in June.

Iker Muniain (Athletic Club & Spain)

The little 19-year old is being touted as the next big thing, Muniain’s name was known before this season, but two performances against Manchester United in the Europa League really brought him to prominence. He’s not a prolific goal scorer but the winger is creative and quick, he won’t be a starter for Spain this summer, he might not even make the squad such is the talent flowing through the Spanish ranks, but he made his international debut this year and is definitely in with a shout of boarding the plane in a few months.

Javi Martinez (Athletic Club & Spain)

Another one of Athletic’s prodigies, but Javi Martinez is a little ahead of Iker Muniain. The 23-year old has already made over 100 appearances for the La Liga side and captained the Spanish U21 side to the U21 European Championship title last summer. The defensive midfielder has been strongly linked with a move to the Premier League and seems destined to become a top midfielder.

His international career is also ahead of Muniain, he’s only made 7 caps but made his debut back in 2010, and like Muniain may not even make the plane this summer. Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Xabi Alonso & Sergio Busquets is tough competition to get in on but if Martinez does go to the EURO’s this summer, I’m sure he’ll do himself justice.

Fabio Borini (AS Roma & Italy)

As I said with Portugal, there’s not a great deal of youth flowing through the current Italy squad, but if there is one man who could make an impact in a side looking to recover from an embarrassing World Cup campaign, it’s Fabio Borini. The 21-year old never really got a chance to impress at Chelsea, but he’s got 9 goals in 19 appearances for Roma this season and has put himself in with a shout of being in the Italy squad this summer.

His impact didn’t go unnoticed by his national side, and Borini made his senior debut for Italy this year against the USA. Like others I’ve mentioned so far, Borini’s not a dead cert to be on the plane to Eastern Europe this summer, but if Italy are to look towards a more youthful approach, Borini might be the man.

James McClean (Sunderland & Ireland)

Here’s a name who might be more familiar to the majority of my readers, Premier League winger James McClean has put himself right in with a shout of going to the EURO’s this summer. He was bought last summer but didn’t make an appearance until Steve Bruce was sacked, making his debut shortly after. 2012 began well for McClean, he started his first game on January 1st, and impressed in the victory over Manchester City.

Since then, McClean has gone on to give many defenders issues and has been key to Sunderland’s climb up the table. Like Borini, McClean has got 1 international cap but has put himself in contention and in my opinion, Ireland would be stupid not take a chance on him this summer.

Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo & Croatia)

Football Manager fans rejoice! Vrsaljko may be unheard of in real life to many, but in Croatia he and a few other young players have been making waves and giving themselves a chance at a spot in the squad for this summers tournament. Vrsaljko is one of them, the Dinamo right-back has made 45 appearances for his club and this season has broken into the Croatia squad on 3 occasions.

He’s definitely one for the future but there’s no reason why Sime can’t make the plane this summer, along with a few other starlets…

Milan Badelj (Dinamo & Croatia)

Milan Badelj is 23 but still has a big future ahead, the creativity at the hub of Dinamo’s domestic success, Badelj has already surpassed 150 appearances for his club, and has 30 goals to show for it. Like his younger team-mate, Badelj also has 3 caps for Croatia, but playing further up the field he’s already broken his goal scoring duct for the national side.

Badelj is another one of those who could be on the fringes of the squad this summer, but like many other teams, Croatia could look towards youth sooner rather than later, and if they do, Badelj & Vrsaljko may be at the very top of the list.

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